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2009 Week 32 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Petersburg to Taku Harbor, stopping at Scenery Cove, Sheldon Cove, West Brother, Sanford Cove, and Fords Terror along the way.

We picked up our people in Petersburg and got back in to Frederic Sound. Finally! Two weeks away and I’d missed it. Captain Bill was on the boat again as well as new chef Tracy. We went to Scenery Cove, then the Brothers.

The weather was hot and dry, but it wasn’t sunny; there was a strange haze all around us and a faint smell of smoke. It turns out that there’s a lot of Canada and the Yukon on fire right now, and it’s turning the coast hazy. We kinda felt cheated of our potential sun, but no one really complains as long as it’s dry and calm.

We pulled the old rubber fish iceberg trick again. Whenever we go to see the glacier at Fords Terror, we’ll have an iceberg centerpiece on the dinner table that night. Once in a while, I’ll freeze a rubber chicken or a fish in a bucket, and then switch it with the real centerpiece. The fish, as always, was a hit.

Soon enough, another week had gone by and we were in Juneau again. We had a nice dinner at the Hangar and drinks with Anthony, who I sailed with on the Mist Cove years ago.

Engineer’s Log

Here’s the numbers for the 14th trip of the 2009 season:

hours underway 42
hours on main: 44
hours on the generator: 31:25
hours on the water maker: 6:45
miles traveled: 237
gallons of fuel used: 181
gallons of water made: 405
gallons of gas used: 13.9
gallons of propane about: 4.5 gallons
gallons of lube oil: 4

And a fun recipe that’s part of my Eat Alaska campaign:
Fords Terror Sushi

Ingredients
bull kelp, peeled and cut into thin strips
limpets (10), baked for 3 minutes at 350, shelled and minced
rice, cooked, stir in rice vinegar and cool
nori sheets
red pepper strips
avocado
wasabi
soy sauce

To assemble:
Lay out nori sheets, spread out thin layer rice covering two-thirds of the sheet. Spread a small amount of wasabi on the rice, arrange red pepper strips, avocado, limpet, and bull kelp on rice. Roll, cut, serve with soy sauce.

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2009 Week 29 in Review

News from Alaska

I’m onboard the Catalyst again and I’m meeting boat friends everywhere: the crew from the Liseron, former crewmates Chuck and Nissa from the Mist Cove, and the crew from the Catalyst, who are all being relieved today by a whole new crew. Captain Steve, chef Lisa, deckhand Lia, and I will be running the boat together for the next few weeks.

Lia and I flew in on Saturday and after some last-minute chores and drinks at the Alaskan hotel, we picked up our passengers on Sunday and headed out to Endicott Arm.

This week’s cruise was from Juneau to Petersburg, stopping at Sanford Cove, Fords Terror, West Brother, Sheldon Cove, West Brother, and Scenery Cove along the way

We kayaked through Fords Terror, picked up a bunch of Dungeness crabs at Wood Spit, made a campfire on West Brother in Frederic Sound, and watched some bears in Sheldon cove.

We got to Sheldon cove early, so I pulled four valves to clean and swap. I exchange intake for exhaust valves every so often so that they wear evenly and we get more life out of them. Washingtons are hard on their valves for some reason.

We liked West Brother so much that we stopped there again and this time we had Norio Matsumoto over for dinner. He’s a great wilderness photographer and he showed a slide show of his work. On the way to Thomas Bay we watched some whales, then anchored in Scenery Cove and went for a walk to Baird Glacier.

Once we got to Petersburg, the whole crew was anxious to connect with the world we all had a cell phone attached to one ear while cleaning the boat, provisioning, and doing other chores.

This week was so nice. Getting aboard Catalyst was like coming home and I ran into each room to revisit great memories and see that everything is still where I left it. Frederick Sound is also some of the best cruising in the world – especially with the great weather we’re having. I have never seen so much sun up here. It made the glacier a beautiful sparkling blue, and it was so warm I could wear shorts and a t-shirt while on our hike there.

sunny days on the MV Catalyst

Engineer’s Log

Valves from 1 and 2 pulled, cleaned, and swapped in for out
Ex-valve for #3 reinstalled after Eric pulled it
Wiggled cord for the shaft tachometer; no improvement, still reading really low or not at all
Re-soldered wire to stateroom five port forward reading light
Cleaned and flushed bilge

We also did the numbers for this trip, the 11th of the 2009 season:

hours underway: 52:45
hours on main: 53.8
hours on the generator: 35:.6
hours on the water maker: 17:45
miles traveled: 231
gallons of fuel used: 179
gallons of water made: 1,035
gallons of gas used: 8.8
gallons of propane: 4.5
gallons of lube oil: 4
qts of half and half: used 6 (unusually high)

And finally, here’s a tasty recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:

Crab
drop crab pots in 40 feet of water in top secret location with herring bait caught from just off the Taku fishery pier.
soak for one to two days, pull
return small ones and females
pull all legs of each crab, bracing the center of the body on the boat rail; legs and body meat should come right out of shell
scrape off gills
boil for 11 minutes
shell and eat

Kitchen notes: Crab-eaters of the world are divided into two groups: pilers and gobblers. Gobblers eat each piece of crab as they pull it out of the shell, while pilers pile up their pieces on their plate. Pilers beware, for the gobblers are happy to steal your pile.

Finally, crab-crackers are for newbies.

Waving to the Heavy-Duties

On the way into Petersburg, I saw the Katahdin, the Barron Islands, and the Cape Cross, each powered by a heavy-duty. It’s great to see the old workboat yachts out there.

More scraping at Indian Graves

In news beyond Alaska, I heard that the Indian Grave engine #3 ran for an hour and then the #2 main bearing got hot, so they scraped it down some more. This isn’t unusual – even with a good pattern on the bearing and the engine turning by hand really smooth, more scraping is often required after actually running the engine the first few times. Sounds like it’s going well.

Sexy sailor women

Diana the OTM Inc museologist had pictures taken for the 2010 Sexy Women of Maritime Calendar produced by Jack Tar Magazine this week. Apparently, the photos turned out great, but you’ll have to buy the calendar to see them because she isn’t sharing.

Social Networking

Old Tacoma Marine Inc. joined TheBoaters.com, which is like Facebook for boat trash. Check us out!

New owner for the Sound

I heard that Anthony bought the Sound. Poor sucker – he already owns the Chief. I love Enterprises, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing.

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2008 Week 33 in Review

Here’s this week’s cruising schedule aboard Catalyst, from Petersburg to Juneau:

Sunday, Aug. 10 – Petersburg to Scenery Cove: Depart Petersburg, Hike Baird glacier (cloudy)
Monday, Aug. 11 – Scenery Cove to Donkey Bay: Bubble netting whales, Kayak Donkey Bay Estuary, meet Norio (rain)
Tuesday, Aug. 12 – Donkey Bay to Windham Bay: Brother’s Beach walk, explore Windham Bay gold mine, find gold (rain)
Wednesday, Aug. 13 – Windham Bay to Ford’s Terror: Fishing and Kayaking at Windham, Orcas, Set crab pots (rain)
Thursday, Aug. 14 – Ford’s Terror to Ford’s Terror: incredible glacier day, narrows paddle, uplands walk, skiff rides (no rain!?)
Friday, Aug. 15 – Ford’s Terror to Limestone Inlet: whales, crab vortex, salmon in river, beach walk, slide show (sunny & calm)
Saturday, Aug. 16 – Limestone Inlet to Juneau: pack and return to what passes for civilization (but is really a hollow illusion)

Here’s the crew:

And here’re the passengers:

We explored a mine, watched whales bubble-net feeding, played some good pranks, and “ate Alaska.” Good times.

MV Catalyst from shore

Eating Alaska

Like a lot of the charter boats in southeast Alaska, food is a big part of cruising on the Catalyst. Chef Anne Catherine and others whip up amazing meals for passengers and crew. It would be easy to sit back and let Anne Catherine do all the work, but I like to encourage the passengers to do some good collecting and foraging, too. I call this “eating Alaska.”

There is a lot of wild food in Alaska there for the taking (with the appropriate permits, of course), from blueberries to halibut to Dungeness crab. We get passengers with all different experience levels, so some of them I just hand a trap, and others I really teach how to fish. We eat some of it right off the beach or grill it on the fantail, but sometimes it’s fun to make something a little fancier, like sushi.

On this trip, we had a big sushi party in the Catalyst‘s mess:

making sushi from fresh-caught Alaska seafood, aboard the MV Catalyst

We had Sakhalin sole and smoked salmon and limpets and shrimp, veggies and bull kelp, plus wasabi and nori and omelet and tofu and seasoned rice. We made lots of different kinds and had a lot of fun. We made miso, too, for the full experience:

fresh sushi from fresh-caught Alaskan seafood, aboard the MV Catalyst

Eating Alaska is definitely one of my favorite parts about shipping out.

Business as usual

I got some good work in on the engine this week: I adjusted the clutch, changed all the pyrometers for better gages, and worked on the valves in cylinder three. While underway, I kept hearing an intermittent sticking-valve sound coming from number three cylinder head. When I pulled its valve cages, the exhaust valve was in bad shape so I pulled it out. I’ve been looking at it, and the part that worries me is the stem damage:

closeup of one of the CATALYST's exhaust valves

The face can be cleaned up, but the stem damage might condemn the valve. After I pulled out the valve, I cleaned everything, installed a spare valve in the cage, performed the kerplunk test, ran it a few minutes, and then tightened it a little more.

We’re also still overloading the engine a bit. The Catalyst‘s propeller is oversized for her engine, making the engine work too hard. The new pyrometers are showing that the exhaust temperatures are well over 700 degrees at cruising speed (Dan recommends 600 degrees for a caged un-cooled valve). I started reining in the running practices and am making a list for Bill of the options for making the engine run better:

  • re-pitch the prop
  • add a keel cooler, which would eliminate the need for the seawater pump
  • reduce electrical load and add a 12-volt charger to replace the 12-volt alternator
  • remove hydraulic controls and steering, which would remove a large parasitic load
  • re-ring pistons, grind valves, service injectors, a tune-up that would increase the power available

The Washington manual states in several places not to overload the engine, but acknowledges the tendency to do so since a heavy-duty is very forgiving and can easily carry large loads. This is often difficult to explain to captains because the size of the engine compared to the available horsepower dose not equate to those used to size modern engines. It’s easy to assume that parasitic loads on the engine don’t make a difference, but, in fact, parasitic loads (using the engine’s power to run more than just the propeller) can drain lots of power and make the engine overload pretty easily.

On Catalyst, there’s six parasitic loads that draw 1 to 3 horsepower each: the fresh water pump, the seawater pump, the 12-volt alternator, the 24-volt alternator, the hydraulic pump, and the clutch-in hydraulic pump, which all run on a jack shaft and belts. All together, these take a big bite out of the 120 horsepower that the engine produces when it runs at 450 rpm. Now that we’ve reduced the cruising speed down to 350 rpm, we’ve gotten the average pyro reading down to 600 degrees, which is much better for the engine.

A lesson in applied physics

Confused by all that? Let us consider the power produced by a diesel engine curve and the power required for hull-speed curve.

Diesel engines are designed to run at a certain speed. Re-engineering them by machining or by imagination is never a good idea. The recommended running speed that allows the engine to produce the most horsepower with the least engine wear is the speed at which:

  • the pistons reach their designed feet-per-minute
  • the firing pressures are just below the limit
  • the exhaust temperatures are just below their limit

If you try to cruise at above or below that recommended speed, you will probably “lug” or overload the engine, because you’ll be trying to get it to run faster or with a heavier load than it’s designed to. This causes high firing pressure, soot build-up, burned valves, and actually wears all parts on the engine much more quickly than at recommended running speed.

One of the easiest ways to overload an engine is to try to make the boat go faster than it’s designed to. Boats are designed to cruise at a designated speed at which the boat goes as fast as it can without pushing too much water with the bow. This follows a specific formula, in which hull speed is equal to the square root of the length of the hull at the water line. A displacement hull can’t exceed the speed determined by that equation without severely straining the engine and getting really, really inefficient. There are a lot of other factors involved in the potential speed of a boat, but the two main ones are hull and engine and until those are properly balanced the other ones aren’t a big deal.

Anyway, as a boat accelerates, it needs more and more power to maintain its speed. Let’s say our boat uses 65 horsepower to go 7 knots per hour, 80 horsepower to go 7.5 knots, 100 horsepower to go 8 knots, 125 horsepower to go 8.5 knots, and 175 horsepower to go 9 knots, and hull speed is 9.5 using 250+ horsepower to maintain that speed. The horsepower required keeps going up because it has to push more water in front of it.

Now, it’s important (except for tugs – we’ll talk about that later) to have the engine operating at peak performance at the speed the boat is designed for. This is not necessarily hull speed, although it can be. I recommend cruising at a speed less than hull speed to save fuel, ideally just before the horsepower-required curve starts to climb quickly. In our example boat, I would say that 8.5 is a good cruising speed, because to go just one knot faster you need to burn twice as much fuel and use twice as much horsepower.

Why are tugs excluded from this? They are designed differently than cruising vessels – they’re built to tow much more than their own weight, which changes the relationship between hull and engine. For those of you with tugs, you may never reach your engine’s full power even cruising at hull speed. Some tugs used as yachts re-pitch their wheels to get a little more speed, but it’s pretty scary to idle at 6 knots. Tugs should be opened up often to warm up the engine a bit, but you don’t need to worry about overloading. Once in a while, just for fun, you can put the bow against a sturdy pier and rev it up to so that the engine actually works for a while.

OTM Inc Weekly eBay Auction

We’re open for business even while I’m in Alaska! The Old Tacoma Marine Inc inventory has been moved to a remote off-site location for easier shipping and processing:

This week’s object for sale is a Cleveland Air Shifter:

Cleveland air shifter, on sale at Old Tacoma Marine Inc's eBay store

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2008 Week 32 in Review

The Catalyst is sticking to her Wilderness Discoveries cruises this August, running seven-day, six-night trips that “provide the best of Southeast Alaska.” Each trip is one way from Juneau to Petersburg, or from Petersburg back to Juneau, touring through some of the most beautiful and rugged land in the world. The boat has been booked solid all summer, with ten to twelve passengers each trip.

This week was a Juneau to Petersburg trip:

Sunday, August 3 – Juneau to Limestone Inlet: first paddle, fishing boats in Inlet, lots of fish in river (overcast)
Monday, August 4 – Limestone Inlet to Ford’s Terror: hike up Ford’s Terror, paddle narrows, skiff to head of inlet (cloudy)
Tuesday, August 5 – Ford’s Terror to Wood Spit: skiff to head of inlet, glacier hike, bear in stream, fishing, set crab pots (sunny)
Wednesday, August 6 – Wood Spit to Brother’s Island: swimming, fishing (not catching), skiff ride to sea lions (sunny)
Thursday, August 7 – Brothers Island to Portage Bay: meet Norio, whale watching, fishing x2 (w/catching!), (cloud then sun)
Friday, August 8 – Portage Bay to Scenery Cove: paddle in Portage Bay, skiff and hike to Baird Glacier, slide show (fog/sun)
Saturday, August 9 – Scenery Cove to Petersburg: pack, last run together (this year), return to “civilization” (heavy rain)

Here’s the crew:

And here’re the passengers:

I began my “eat Alaska” campaign that I am known for, in which I enthusiastically harvest whatever I can for meals like salmon, halibut, bull kelp, limpets, blueberries, crab, and shrimps. I also kayaked in some of my favorite places, like Fords Terror, named after a navy guy who spent six hours trapped in its tidal surges back in 1899. The passage is part of the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness area, and is an amazing place:

Kayaking

We also had a few very sunny days to watching the glacier calve huge pieces of ice, see whales up close, and take a very short swim call with all the guests. I was very torn over which pictures to post in this blog, but you can see lots more at Lia’s online album or the official Catalyst slideshow. Check it out for some amazing pictures of Alaska at its best – and me doing silly things.

Characters of Southeast Alaska

Part of the fun of cruising Southeast is running into some of the regular characters of the area. We met up with Norio Matsumoto, an amazing whale and nature photographer. His online portfolio is here, and is well worth a look.

We also met up with Doug Leen when we got to Petersburg. He owns the Katahdin, a beautiful old tug powered by a six-cylinder Washington:

Washington Iron Works diesel engine in the tugboat Katahdin

The boat is beautifully restored, but the paint has been taking a beating from the Petersburg winters. Doug ran the engine for a show a few months ago, but he hasn’t taken her out for a cruise recently. He did take us to his house, right across the channel from town. We got the grand tour of what I think is the most amazing property: about 10 acres with lots of waterfront and many old buildings restored by Doug and Martina. Thanks for showing us around, Doug – and it was great to see the Katahdin again.

Business as usual

Catalyst‘s Washington diesel (awarded the “best geared six-cylinder” at the Classic Workboat Show last October) sounds great, though I noticed that at the “normal” cruising speed, the pyrometers read well off the 550 degree gauge. Bill has been working to cure the overload problems that Catalyst has had for years, but I don’t think we’ve sat and really thought these changes through. I’ll install new pyrometers soon, keep learning more on the subject, and stay hard at work — when I’m not oiling:

Oiling the MV Catalyst's 1932 Washington Iron Works diesel engine

The expansion tank also spit out some water, but the temperatures were okay. I think that maybe air was allowed to go from the air compressor into the water system. I just rebuilt the air compressor and replaced the gasket with asbestos, but maybe it requires a sandwich gasket with a copper ring. This might the problem, since the only thing different was that the air compressor was running hard. It settled down when I unloaded it.

One of the things that I like about shipping out as engineer for a while is that I have time to monitor and adjust an engine and really see what’s going on with it when it’s warmed up and at full speed. When I’m working to fix something on the dock or in my shop, I have to just get the job done by the time the boat leaves, and don’t usually get to watch it run for a while. I hope that by September, I’ve had time to make a lot of little adjustments to get it running perfectly.

Missing Lynden

I missed the Puget Sound Antique Tractor & Machinery Association‘s annual show in Lynden, Washington, since it was the day before we left town and I just couldn’t squeeze it in. I was really hoping to go but this call out caused such a shake-up that I could not find the time.

Several spies (thanks, spies) say it was the same great show that the PSATMA is known for (see pictures from last year here. They report that the Atlas-Imperial was running well, but the Washington had its injectors removed. There was also rumor of a bad rod bearing. I’ll try to learn more when I get back – they’re great engines and the PSATMA is doing great things with them.

Trends in luxury and disposable income

Did I miss the window for classy old diesel engines being luxury items?

I’ve heard that Model-T Fords have gone down in value because the new generation of “renewed youth” wants the GTOs, mustangs, and Harleys that were cool when they were kids. Now that they have the disposable income to make “luxury” purchases, they’re buying muscle cars and telling their mechanics to make them “just like 1967.” I’m worried about how everything else is thrown out the window in favor of the childhood fantasy of driving a muscle car with the wind in your hair. What about the classic yachts from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s? What about all the other neat old stuff that the Beach Boys never sang about?

At least there’s a bit of hope for the next generation. Theodore Tugboat and World’s Deadliest Catch are at least getting old workboats on TV for future midlife-crisis children. Maybe 40 years from now, we’ll see characters in the Sopranos or Sex in the City buying converted tugs and big old engines, rather than cigarette boats and handbags.

This may be Old Tacoma Marine Inc’s next big project, so stay tuned.

OTM Inc Weekly eBay Auction

This week’s prize from the OTM Inc shop is an air intake manifold for a two-cylinder Washington Iron Works diesel engine:

air intake manifold for two-cylinder Washington Iron Works diesel engine

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